Born in 1964 in Swansea, Alia Syed grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her films have been shown at international institutions such as LACMA, the Moscow Biennale, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Hayward Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, INIVA, WKV Stuttgart and the Yale Centre for British Art. This retrospective is the first comprehensive survey of her work in the UK. It provides an overview of four decades of moving image practice, from early student films such as Swan (Syed’s degree piece at the University of East London) and Fatima’s Letter (made whilst at the Slade) to the festival premiere of her recent video work Snow (2019). The retrospective is accompanied by an exhibition at Mimosa House Gallery of Syed’s Meta Incognita.
Alia Syed | 2010 | UK | 66’ | digital
Wallpaper is a performative documentary in which four generations of women in the artist’s family attempt to recreate a wallpaper design that was painted by Syed’s grandmother when the artist was a child. It features Syed, her daughter, mother, and grandmother, as well as her sister, artist-filmmaker Tanya Syed. Documenting the process in video and 16mm film, the five women take turns in the film’s technical roles (performer, director, camera operator), thus de-stabilizing the relationship between filmmaker and filmed subject, and the traditional generational hierarchy. The result is a self-reflexive and delicately layered film which deals with family, memory and subjectivity.
Followed by a conversation between Alia Syed and Jemma Desai
Jemma Desai is based in London. Her practice engages with film programming through research, writing, performance, as well as informally organised settings for deep study. She is about to undertake a practice based PhD on the histories of liberatory performance and moving image and the possibilities opened up through ideas of abolitionist praxis at Central School of Speech and Drama. You can find more about her work here.